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FTC nominees vow to combat deceptive AI practices

The deceptive use of artificial intelligence should be a priority for the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), three commissioner nominees said at a confirmation hearing Tuesday in show of bipartisanship on the popular issue.

The hearing was held to consider the re-nomination of Commissioner Rebecca Slaughter, a Democrat, along with the nominations of two Republicans, Andrew Ferguson and Melissa Holyoak, the solicitors general of Virginia and Utah, respectively.

Ferguson was chief counsel to U.S. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell from 2019 until 2021.

Asked by Senator John Thune about the FTC’s role in enforcing rules involving artificial intelligence, Slaughter said it was the FTC’s job to pursue instances where laws against unfair and deceptive acts and practices were broken, whether or not artificial intelligence was used.

“There may be things (involving AI) that Congress think are problematic that go beyond what the FTC Act covers and that is up to you,” she said.

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Ferguson and Holyoak agreed, with Holyoak noting that AI could be used to turbocharge fraud by making phishing emails and robocalls more convincing to potential victims of scams.

The agreement was striking given previous partisan battles at the agency. A previous Republican FTC commissioner, Christine Wilson, quit this year and sharply criticized agency leadership.

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If confirmed by the Senate, as expected, the two Republicans will not change the balance of power at the five-member FTC, which also enforces antitrust law. It currently has a Democratic chair, Lina Khan, and two Democratic commissioners.

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